He was hovering politely by the nurses' desk again, constantly getting brushed aside by doctors and patients in too much of a hurry to notice him. Gunn could've told him that that was never going to work. The only way to do it was the way Gunn was doing it now, sitting sprawled out in the chairs, taking up as much space as possible and not moving for any damn body, talking loudly to everybody nearby, and every few minutes giving the nurse at the desk a look that said he was fixing to either jump her or ask her out. It was a trick he'd polished over the years, and it had never yet failed him. It made them rush to take care of your problem so they could get rid of you before you started holding a Scary Black People rally right there in the lobby. Straight up, he probably liked watching them get all nervous as much as he liked getting taken care of right.
Of course, to be fair, that trick probably worked better for him than it would for some skinny-ass white guy with glasses. But anything would work better than what Wesley was doing. Gunn saw the nurse look him off with a quick shake of the head, hardly even meeting his eyes, and grimaced. Wesley sighed and came back over to him.
"They didn't have any information."
"What's the matter, man, didn't your Hesitant Cough of Doom strike terror into their hearts?"
Wesley frowned at him. "No." Then he looked at his watch and turned off to do the only thing that could possibly annoy Gunn more at that moment--head to the bank of pay phones across the room. When he wasn't busy giving grins to a honey a few chairs away, Gunn kept looking over to see him feeding quarters into a phone. Each time, Wesley's shoulders had slumped down further. When he came back, he didn't really have to say anything.
But he did. "No answer anywhere," he murmured, dropping into a chair. "I tried leaving messages everywhere I could think of--the hotel, his cell phone, even Caritas--but nothing."
"Clutch the pearls! You surprised?" Gunn asked.
"Well, he may have turned his back on his mission, but I would've thought telling him we were in casualty--I mean, the emergency room--especially with Cordelia, I would've thought..." He stared off blankly into space.
"Obviously, you would've thought wrong."
"It's not necessarily his fault," Wesley said, perking up sadly. "He may not have gotten the message. He may have gone to the wrong hospital. He may be waiting for us, back at the hotel--"
Watching Wesley make excuses for somebody who'd walked out on him--on them--was suddenly too irritating for Gunn to stand. "Or he may just not give a shit anymore. You ever think about that?"
Wesley stiffened, wincing a little at the pain in his arm. "Yes, Gunn, I'd thought of that," he said wearily, lifting his glasses up and pinching the bridge of his nose. "I simply prefer not to think the worst of a man I've worked with closely for nearly a year until I'm forced to."
Looking at him scraping together his pride, Gunn was just as suddenly sorry he'd said anything, but right then the doctor came over, and all of Wesley's attention was immediately on him.
"Your friend is going to be all right," he said to Wesley. Gunn leaned forward to hear his words, and the doctor's eyes slid over him, obviously only then realizing that they were together. He frowned slightly, and Gunn pulled himself up. "She was just dehydrated. We're giving her an IV now. We'd prefer to keep her overnight for observation, but she's insisting on going home afterwards." He looked at Gunn. "You kids must have been partying pretty hard."
Gunn smiled. "See, man, it all came from trying to be multicultural," he explained earnestly. "But we've learned our lesson. Next time, crack only or Ecstasy only. Not the two together."
The doctor's frown deepened, and he started to say something, but Wesley stood up. "Can we see her?"
"Of course. She's in curtain four." The doctor gave Gunn one last dark look, and he gazed back innocently.
Yeah, that was the way to handle yourself, unless you wanted to take shit from everybody who came by. And some people who didn't.
Cordelia didn't look too good. It would probably help, Gunn thought, if she weren't so damned skinny. This was great. He was stuck in the ER with two stick-figures that life was snapping into pieces.
"Hi, guys," she said wanly.
"How are you feeling, Cordelia?" Wesley asked.
"Not too great." She forced a smile. "I guess adrenaline, tequila, and visions aren't such a good combination after all."
Wesley smiled back carefully. "No, I'd imagine not."
"How's your arm?"
"Oh, except for the numbness and the occasional agonizing pain, it'll be fine." Wesley hesitated. "Cordelia, the doctor said he'd rather keep you overnight."
"Wesley, hello! We just got fired. That means no health insurance. I don't even know how I'm going to afford this."
"Oh, yes, that's right. I'd forgotten, being on the NHS." Now that, Gunn thought, was flat-out wrong. They'd gotten hurt taking care of the man's business, and they were going to have to pay for it themselves? "But it doesn't matter. You should take care of yourself. We'll find a way to pay for it somehow. Don't worry."
"No, really, I just want to get home. I'll feel a lot better there." She wrinkled her nose. "What happened to the girl we saved?"
"She's going to be fine. Her family is here. They're very grateful--"
"--though not grateful enough to write us a check without being asked," Gunn said, "and a certain person wouldn't let me ask--"
Wesley gave him a look and he got quiet. Not because Wesley scared him, but because he just didn't have the heart to rag him too hard while he was trying to take care of his girl. "--so I don't think we need worry about her further."
"Okay." Silence fell in the room. Finally, Cordelia said, "So, what's next?"
"Well," Gunn said, "first I got to figure out a way to get puke out of my hoodie."
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry, Gunn. I know I should've thrown up all over the little old lady on the other side of me, but it's hard to keep track of direction when you're about to hurl." Despite himself, Gunn grinned. At least Cordelia knew how to fight back. "But I mean: what do we do next? I--I don't think the visions are going to be stopping because Angel decided to take a vacation to explore his inner jackass."
"I called him, Cordelia," Wesley said, "but he...he hasn't answered."
"I don't want to talk about him," she said. "If he wants to just go running off after some little blonde bimbo and leave me with the visions, then we can't do anything about it."
She sounded defiant, but Gunn saw her mouth quiver, and Wesley must have, too, because his back stiffened. "But we can do something about the visions," he said firmly. "We can keep the agency open."
"Without Angel?" Gunn said.
"Yes, without Angel. We handled the vision tonight, didn't we? We don't have to have his help. We can do just fine without him."
Gunn noticed Cordelia sitting up, eyes brightening, and said quickly, "And two out of three of us ended up getting fixed up in the emergency room."
"We'll be better-prepared in future."
"Yes," Cordelia said. "Like, we won't be drunk at the time."
"Exactly," Wesley agreed, seeing her enthusiasm. "Angel is...well, he's just muscle. We can compensate for that."
"And I have all the files, so it's not like it would be hard to just move to another office."
"Yes. Perhaps the Powers even want us to do this; otherwise, why would they keep sending the visions?"
"See, that's a good point!"
Wesley turned to him. "Well, Gunn, what do you think?"
It was crazy. Stone-cold crazy. Just as crazy as Cordelia coming to rescue him with her little lady battleaxe, insisting she had to "save" him from something. But. Fuck. She'd been right then. They'd saved his life. And they'd fought back-to-back just that night. Gunn might not be crazy, but he wasn't enough of an asshole to walk out on people like that. He'd leave that to the professional, who was doing a pretty good job of it.
"It might work," he said, and tried not to think too hard about why he felt so damned relieved at the idea of not having to go back to his crew.
"Excellent," Wesley grinned. "Give me five." He raised his hand.
"Give you five?" He groaned. "No, no, brother, let me show you how it's done."
It was nearly four in the morning when they got to Cordy's apartment. "Thanks for the escort, guys," she said, flopping into a chair as Phantom Dennis put a pillow behind her head. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"C'mon, Wesley, I'll give you a ride home," Gunn said, and started to turn, but Wesley wasn't moving.
"Are you sure you ought to be alone tonight, Cordelia? You still don't look very well. What if you had another vision?"
"I'll be fine," she said, "I--" But there was already a flurry of bedding settling onto her couch. Damn, that took some getting used to. "Okay already, Dennis," she said to the air. "What's the matter, do you have some hot date that will keep you from looking after me?"
The sheets rippled indignantly. "All right," Gunn said, raising his hands and backing towards the door, "then I'll see you guys tomorrow."
"Gunn," Wesley said, "it's the middle of the night. You shouldn't have to drag yourself across town through a multitude of dangers just so you can sleep--" He flushed. "Well, wherever you sleep."
Gunn raised an eyebrow. "You trying to say something about my crib?"
"It's just--Angel said you were squatting somewhere. I don't wish to embarrass you, but it's hardly fair that we should be somewhere comfortable while you..."
His face was getting pinker and pinker, and Gunn watched in fascination. Funny. All this time, it had never occurred to Angel to think about that. "Okay," he shrugged, "but where do I sleep? On that couch with you? I didn't know you swung that way, English."
Wesley's face had gotten even more colorful. "I--I--"
"Oh, please," Cordy said. "Dennis..."
But there was already an air mattress unrolling itself on the floor. Damn. Gunn had found himself kind of wanting to see just how pink he could make Wesley get.
"Well, I don't have anything that will fit either of you," Cordelia said, opening her bedroom door, "so you'll just have to sleep in your clothes."
"That's fine," Wesley said, already half on the couch. "Good night, Cordelia. Good night, Gunn." He reached for the lamp.
The air mattress was looking really good to him, but Gunn paused. "Why you in such a hurry, man? Aren't we supposed to laugh and cry and paint each other's toenails first?"
Wesley stared at him for a minute, then a slow smile crept across his face. "I'd love to, Gunn, but I left my bottle of Thrill at home, and Cordelia's colors are too bright for me."
Okay. So that was as pink as he got before he started pushing back. Gunn laughed. "Damn. Okay, maybe next time," and crawled into bed.
Someone was trying to sneak past his head. Gunn threw a hand out and caught the ankle, bringing the intruder down with a crash and a curse. "Gunn--"
Gunn shook himself. Most people trying to break into their place didn't know his name. Or have an English accent. This one did because...he wasn't at his place, and nobody was breaking in. Shit. "Wesley?"
He reached up and found the table lamp. Wesley was lying tumbled on the floor. He'd obviously hit his arm on the way down, because his long, lean body was tense with pain, but his mouth was clamped in a stoic line that Gunn had to admire. "Shit, Wes, I'm sorry. What were you--?"
"The painkillers. In my jacket," Wes said through his teeth, and looked up at him.
He wasn't wearing his glasses, and it was like Gunn had never seen him before. He'd never known that his eyes could be so big and dark and soft and there. Trying to hide the pain, but...open, still. Touchable. Damn. Gunn hastily got up and found his jacket, then pulled the bottle of pills out and handed it to Wes, who had sat up slowly behind him. "Hold up, I'll get you some water."
When he came back from the kitchen with the glass, Wes was sitting on the couch amidst a tangle of blankets, his glasses back on. He took his pills as if it was something he was getting used to. "Thank you, Gunn."
"I'm sorry about that. You should've cut on the lights."
"I didn't want to wake you. You must be very tired."
"I'm never too tired to hear somebody creeping past me in the night."
"Really?" Wesley asked softly. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's just the way you got to live on the street," he said. Wes opened his mouth to say something else, but he didn't really want to talk about it anymore. Besides, something else was bugging him. "Look, I'm sorry about the whole pansy-ass thing."
He blinked at him. "What?"
"I called you a pansy-ass. Earlier. At the bar."
"Oh. Right." Wes sighed. "It's not...important. I shouldn't have questioned your attitude towards Angel. Evidently we all had some failings in that regard."
"Uh-unh," Gunn said, sitting back down on the mattress. "It wasn't our fault. Much as it weakens my macho facade to say it, Cordy was right. You have an obsession, you pretty much just fit it into your schedule. Anybody who wouldn't even come to see his friends at the hospital--that's somebody who wasn't tight enough with his crew to begin with."
"But he was, once. Scarcely half a year ago."
"Well, he isn't now. He hasn't been since I started hanging out with y'all. And we can't go on living like he might be someday. We have to move on."
"If he knew, if he only knew what he'd done..."
"Then why don't you go tell him?"
"Yeah." Gunn was liking this idea. Liking the thought of Wesley telling Angel a thing or two. "Go over there tomorrow and tell him that we're taking care of his business now. If that doesn't get him, then nothing will."
"Yes. Yes, that's an excellent idea. Maybe it will make him realize the consequences of his actions."
Gunn looked at Wesley's hopeful face. What had Angel done to deserve that? The vamp was even more of an ass than he'd realized. "Maybe," he said, trying not to sound too skeptical. Or maybe Wesley would realize some things himself.
"I should get back to sleep, then."
Wesley took off his glasses again and nestled down into the blankets, and Gunn got up to switch off the lamp. Those dark eyes again, watching him drowsily from across the room. Angel must have seen him like that; he wondered if he'd even noticed.
The next afternoon, they climbed into the truck. "You tell 'em, Wes," Cordy said. "And you, Gunn, don't let him wimp out."
"Don't worry," Gunn said.
Wesley glared at them both. "If I am to be in charge, a little respect for my authority might be in order."
"Wesley," Cordy said, "we've seen you drunk and singing karaoke. It's a little late for that."
Wesley rolled his eyes. "I'm going in on my own, anyway."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" She looked a little worried.
"Yes, I'm sure. It's my responsibility; I'll deal with it."
"If we can ever get out of here," Gunn cut in, gunning the engine, though he didn't really want to drown out the note of decision in Wesley's voice. Confidence sounded good on him, sounded right.
"Right." Wesley put his seatbelt on, and they pulled away. It wasn't long before they reached the Hyperion.
"Here we go."
"Drive--drive around the block, can't you?" Wesley's voice was tight.
He turned the steering wheel, thinking maybe he'd seen a demon or a W&H minion or something. "What's the matter?"
Wes frowned, suddenly shrinking in on himself. "I'm not sure that this is such a good idea after all."
Gunn looked at him. "Why not?"
"Well, it's too much like an ultimatum, for one thing."
He tried not to smack his forehead. Instead, he pulled the truck abruptly over to the curb. "That's because it is one, Wes. Either he helps or he doesn't. We've tried every other damn thing to get through to him."
Wesley looked at his feet. "I just don't want to drive him off."
"Earth to Wes: he drove us off. Between Angel and us, which people spent the night at the office, and which people had to crash on Cordelia's floor?"
"True, true." Wesley sighed and switched to staring out the window. "But what if he says we can't do it?"
"How's he going to stop us?"
"What if," he continued, not even registering Gunn's words, "he says he's going to keep the agency open himself? What if he turns on us? What if he laughs at me and says he doesn't even need us at all? What if I can't even say to him--"
"Wesley," Gunn said loudly, and snatched off his glasses. Wesley turned to him in shock, letting him see those eyes, and Gunn leaned over and kissed him.
Wesley's mouth was narrow and warm. His lips were parted, then they closed, then they parted again, and then he was hanging back against the door, staring at him, breathing hard.
"He's not in charge of us. You are. And you'll do fine."
Wesley didn't say anything, just kept staring at him, and Gunn thought, Oh, no. Virginia. He'd forgotten. He didn't know how close Wesley was to the girl, whether that constituted playing around, whether that would make him get out and slam the door and take a taxi home...but, no, that same slow, surprised smile from the night before was sneaking onto his lips, and those dark blue eyes were so inviting that it was all he could do not to lunge at him and do it again.
"Gunn," he said huskily and then cleared his throat. "Gunn..."
"Go on," Gunn said, "I can wait. But"--he handed him his glasses back--"put those on first. I want you coming out untouched."
Wesley grinned broadly at that, and flushed--oh, yeah, he could get pinker--and said, "Very well." He pulled the door open and sprang up the steps into the hotel.
Gunn leaned back and did his best not to ask himself why he was volunteering to take shit this time. 'Cause, honestly, he already knew the answer to that one. He just didn't want to admit it yet.